Five years and eight months on — and still at it!

 

I don’t usually behave like this—but it’s the pink hair that turned me into a gorilla—instantly.  Camden Market, London

Little did I contemplate, let alone realise, that when I started posting to this blog five years and eight months ago I would still be doing it in 2021.  I had written a blog years ago—very intermittently—but stopped when Apple scrapped the application I had been using and with which I had more or less familiarised myself.

But then I read a blog post written by a person I didn’t know and who had undergone a serious operation in which he described several things that had been happening to him. On reading that, I decided to start using the application that he had used and found it easy-peasy. I had actually wanted to restart the blog as for several years, I had been getting out and about most mornings either in Tel Aviv or London.  In Tel Aviv, “out and about” usually meant the Yarqon Park and Tel Aviv Port, returning home via the streets of North Tel Aviv, with occasional forays elsewhere.  In London, it was a similar story — south to Primrose Hill, sometimes through to The Regent’s Park and into the West End, sometimes east and north to Hampstead Heath.  I almost always carried a camera with me on these walks, noticing and noting the many and varied activities going on while taking lots of photographs. However, l became increasingly frustrated by my inability to disseminate these images. For a time, I sent email attachments to friends and acquaintances but that was hardly adequate.  Now and then, I posted a picture or two to Facebook but as I have no desire to be inundated daily with hundreds of posts, I limit the number of my Facebook friendships to a quantity I can deal with (more or less).  

And then I remembered that in June 2014, I had given a seminar in the Department of Geography at the University of Haifa entitled: “The changing eyes of a human geographer: How being a geographer has influenced what I photograph and how to do it”.  I had intended it as a “serious” seminar, one that I might work on and convert into a paper (I was still in “academic mode” at that time.)  But in the event, the presentation was postponed only to be rescheduled for the last day of the school year and as such, it had been intimated to me that I might like to “lighten” the content as the folks were celebrating the end of another academic year and weren’t up to anything as heavy as an earnest seminar. Consequently I gave a “slideshow” — but a high quality one, I might add.

Anyway, not having looked for over a year and a half at what I had originally prepared for that presentation, which, in retrospect, was 6,000 words long, and at least twice as long as would have been justified for a seminar, I decided to re-read it and on reading what I had written once more, I discovered that the original presentation was quite coherent and could be built on somehow—but how should I proceed?  An article for an academic journal perhaps? I might have done that once but as a retiree, such things no longer interested me all that much and I didn’t think I had the patience to submit a paper to a journal and deal with snooty editors and snotty reviewers (of which I had been one for 35 years).  Perhaps a picture book that my photography mentor had suggested to me that I produce earlier that year, a book on the park and the port in Tel Aviv.  However, after some contemplation, I concluded that a book was too big a project at the stage I was at then. I needed to try something a little easier at first and if it went well, perhaps I might turn it into something a bit more serious. So I decided on an SW photography blog — something where I could show and explain some of the many images I have taken over the past few years.  Consequently, when I restarted the blog in December 2015, my aim was no more ambitious than to see if I was capable of producing just 20 posts and I set out to post my first piece.

The Regent’s Canal, North London

So here I am, nearly six years later, still churning it out, approximately one post every eight days, text (usually frivolous or based on whatever happens to have vexed, irritated, piqued or amused me in the week prior to posting) and photographs (usually taken in the 10 days or so before posting), loosely (if at all, although I usually try) related to the text.  And yet, there are still the faithful few who seem to read what I write and look at the photographs.  And what is more, there is even a small number of diehards who bother to comment, either on the content or on the images, sometimes even leading me to material or ideas that had never before entered my mind.  The other thing I had to remember was that I’m not writing an academic paper but something else entirely and that meant shaking off the language of “academese” and writing in a more informal manner.  An what a relief not to have to worry too much about this word or that or starting a sentence with a conjunction or whatever — although I do have one reader who frequently corrects my spelling mistakes, or inserts commas and semicolons where needed but I take it all with good grace — after gritting my teeth for not having twigged on to these errors myself before posting.

And today, it’s post #250—and I haven’t got the slightest idea what I’m going to write except that it might—I say just might—be a little longer than usual.

In addition to hardly believing that I’ve been doing this for as long as I have, I also find it difficult to accept that I’ve already been in London for four weeks.  And how things have changed in just four weeks. And I’m not referring to the weather, either.  When I arrived, there seemed to be nothing on the TV other than Olympics and Covid, with the odd murder or wildfire thrown in for good measure just to make people feel at home.  And how things have changed during what used to be called “the silly season” — the Afghanistan débâcle(s), fires, floods, and now it’s the paralympics and Charlie Watts, the original Rolling Stones drummer, about the announcement of whose death BBC TV news broke into a serious discussion on Afghan refugees. And of course, there’s still Covid, the numbers about which I can make neither heads nor tails any more, except to learn that it’s still about and will be for a long time. And as I’m in the the UK, and whereas everybody I seem to know in Israel has had a third booster shot, I think I will have to wait until I return to the Land of Milk and Honey before I have mine.

And now for some photographs.

A couple of years ago, while walking up Haverstock Hill in NW London, heading towards Hampstead, I came across this street sign, which I simply interpreted as an error on the part of someone a few years ago.

However, a little further up the street, I had to change my mind, because it seemed as if the same street sign technician had been let loose some time ago and managed up to put yet another dyslexic street sign in place.  I was always told when younger to “mind my P’s and Q’s” but the guy responsible for this obviously didn’t mind his P’s and O’s.  Incidentally, directly opposite this sign is an older one (you can tell it’s older because Willoughby Road, now in London NW3, was once just in London NW.)  Willqughby Road is in NW3!

This stamp dispenser stands just off Primrose Hill Road and it’s been there for a very long time.  I photographed it about 10 years ago and was wondering the other day how often it gets used in these days of FaceTime, Facebook, WhatsApp and all the other devilish pieces of social media that I don’t know about and have never even heard of.  The only time I ever saw this dispenser is use was when Alan Bennett bought four stamps prior to posting a letter — one of the few occasions on which I didn’t even have my camera with me!

And not far from the same place, I came across this couple out for a walk, he wearing the shortest shorts I think I’ve ever seen in this part of the world!

And while walking around Hampstead, I came across a plaque on one of the houses on Pilgrim’s Lane.  Obviously, Jacqui was insufficiently famous to warrant a blue plaque but managed to be remembered by way of a local one (as well as, of course, her many recordings).

However, no sooner had I emerged from Pilgrim’s Lane and was walking down Rosslyn Hill/Haverstock Hill, I came across a different cellist, obviously en route to a recording session in AIR Studios at the corner of Haverstock Hill and Lyndhurst Road, in what used to be a church (signs of the times).

A week ago, I had a guest stay for three days in the apartment and we decided to visit the Tate Modern (a building with which I’m in love) to see an exhibition focussing on the importance of plaster and other soft materials in Rodin’s sculptures. Although he is best known for his bronze and marble sculptures…

… he also worked as a modeller, capturing movement, light and volume in pliable materials such as clay, plaster and terracotta.

Rodin’s giblets

 

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais. Tate Modern, London

And there was also an opportunity to capture how the Tate (and British society) has changed in the past two or three decades.

And just before exiting the gallery,  I took a photo of the enormous play space that has been created for children on the ground floor of this amazing building.

BTW, the picture below is not of a statue by Rodin but was taken not too far from the Gallery. Given that he didn’t move for five minutes, he might as well have been sculpted by Rodin.

And en route to the Tate, while walking down Kingsway, and passing part of King’s College London with portraits of famous graduates on the wall, I was reminded that I have a dental appointment this week!

… and emerging from the gallery after the visit en route to find somewhere too have a bite, I came across yet another young woman full of selfie-confidence

Leaving the house the other day for a walk on Hampstead Heath, there was a parked van with a story to tell.  A vegan activist, known as Earthling Ed just set off on a tour of the British seaside a couple of years ago in a vehicle named ‘The Off the Hook Truck’. He has stocked the truck with free vegan fish and chips – also known as tofish and chips – which, apparently, is one of the best sellers at a London restaurant of which he is part-owner.

No visit to London would be complete without a walk to Primrose Hioll — this one on a misty early morning walk.

And another visit to the same venue brought me this week’s avian picture—of a starling, a beautiful bird I’d never seen from close-up before!

And as a sign of the times, one entrance to Primrose Hill announces “No skating”, “No cycling”, “No amplified music” — and as a sign of the times, a lock and chain have been put in place to close off entrance to the park at night time …

… something that The Economist had a thing or two report about a fortnight ago!

Economist on Hampstead Heath

This gentleman below can be seen most mornings walking down the hill from the direction of Hampstead, replete with sleeping bag and belongings, from where he presumably found somewhere to rest his weary head and body …

… and then he can be observed later in the day walking up the hill from the direction of Camden with what would appear to be his favourite tipple—vintage cider!

And coming home on the Underground one evening last week, I was struck by the slumbering couple on the other side of the carriage …

… and also by the notice on the carriage window next to them.

 

 

Younger people, this actually means “Get off your bike here and now”!

And here are some styles observed in the heart of Camden Town.

 

 

Meanwhile, Tal, my 11-year old grandson has suddenly become interested in taking photographs with his phone and I thought I’d include a couple that he took a few days ago while looking for subjects to do with nature.  I thought it was pretty good for a first try!

Finally—and I’ve never done anything like this before in over five years of blogging—I’m including a so-called “scholarly piece” for your edification. Every now and then, one surprises oneself. A couple of weeks ago, that’s what happened to me. About 20 years ago, I contributed a chapter to a co-edited a book. Looking at the year in which it was published, 2002, I must have received a copy when I was living in London and the book remained here, never making it back to Israel.

Then, one wet afternoon, rather than go out  for a walk in the rain, I did an hour and a half on the exercise bike and took a book off the shelf to take my mind off pedalling.  I vaguely remembered that I had a chapter—“States of Segregation”— in that book. Recalling the writing process, I actually do remember writing it (it started life as five chapters of a book never completed) and I also recalled an exchange I had with the copy editor at the time.  However, having said that, I can’t remember ever reading it after it had been published. So I read it while pedalling and found that I had to keep asking myself if it was really I who wrote it. I reckon that it is one of my best pieces ever—even interesting and free of jargon. What a pleasant surprise it was! But buried inside a book, I wondered if anybody had ever read it!  So here’s your chance!

States of Segregation

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